Quantum Leap – Temptation Eyes [4.13]

Sam leaps into Dylan Powell, an aging television reporter who has gained notoriety for receiving anonymous tips regarding the activities of serial killer in San Francisco in 1985. Sam meets Tamlyn Matsuda, an apparent psychic who is assisting the police with their investigation, but who is fated to be the murderer’s next victim. Tamlyn’s unusual abilities are real, and soon she can see Sam for who he really is and even seems to be able to detect the presence of Al. Sam and Tamlyn fall in love and begin a relationship. On the day of Tamlyn’s predicted death approaches, Sam discovers that the killer is his own cameraman, Ross Tyler. Sam saves Tamlyn and defeats Ross (who takes his own life). Sam says a tender goodbye to Tamlyn as he leaps away.

Written by Paul Brown. Directed by Christopher Hibler.

Previous Episode:  Running with HonorNext Episode:  The Last Gunfighter

Comments:
Temptation Eyes is a solid episode of Quantum Leap that holds closely to the show’s regular pattern while also playing around with it quite a bit. Whenever an episode would break the rules of the show, it always makes us sit up and take notice, because the formula of the show was a pretty strong element of it. In this case, things skew in a funny direction thanks to Tamlyn Matsuda, a woman Sam meets who seems to have genuine psychic abilities. As we have had many times on the show before, these “paranormal” elements are treated as fully plausible, with Sam as usual quickly becoming a believer while Al remains the skeptic who needs convincing.

All of this leads to one of the show’s strongest directorial moments: where Tamlyn’s perception of Dylan in the mirror transitions to her revelation that she is seeing Sam instead, all done in one seemless shot (the camera zooms in the reflection of Tamlyn, who is not paying attention to the mirror at that moment, allowing Scott Bakula to step into the shot at the right moment). It’s a brilliant piece of storytelling.

Tamlyn Tomita gets a lot of the credit for making this episode work. Her psychic visions from the early part of the episode could have incredibly hokey, but they are convincing because Tomita’s committed performance. She’s equally good in her romance with Sam, and her struggle to survive once the killer gets his hands on her. Usually one can see how things are going to end in Quantum Leap but this time around I was legitimately uncertain as to whether Tamlyn would survive.

The revelation of the true identity of the “San Francico strangler” becomes pretty obvious as the story plays out, but only shortly before it’s revealed–so we don’t find ourselves in the audience too far ahead of our characters. This keeps the last act of the story from getting too tedious. The climax is pretty melodramatic but works because of the wholeheartedness of everyone involved, including actor James Handy as the villain.

On the whole, it’s a strong episode, thanks to a solid set of performances, a gripping script, and the unexpectedly personal nature of the story for lead character.

Cast Notes:
• I primarily know Tamlyn Tomita (Tamlyn Matsuda) from the pilot episode of Babylon Five, in which she was the main co-star and the original first officer of the station, but I’ve also seen her in Stargate, Stargate Atlantis, The Man in the High Castle (a show I loved) and Star Trek Picard (a show I hated).

• Rob LaBelle (Tony Beche) also had a small part in The Man in the High Castle, as a bookstore clerk in a couple of early episodes of the series.

Who and Where is Dr. Sam Beckett?
Sam is Dylan Powell, a TV news reporter, in San Francisco from February 1 – 14, 1985.

What does Sam have to do?
Sam has to stop a serial killer who is murdering women in San Francisco’s Chinatown, and in particular save the life of psychic profiler Tamlyn Matsuda.

What do we learn about Sam Beckett?
There’s not really anything new here, except that Sam is tired of leaping and keeping secrets, and ready to give that up for Tamlyn if that were possible.

What do we know about Al?
Nothing new about Al this time around.

What about the experiment?
Al reminds us that i Sam tells Tamlyn the truth about who he is and when he is from, he might not leap. He refers to all of this as part of the “rules”. However in the end it seems to amount to nothing–Sam still leaps once he is done with his mission as he normally would.

Al also refers to the Waiting Room, where the real Dylan is. He asks Sam to consider what would happen to the real Dylan if Sam were to never leap out.

“Driven by an unknown force…” (God or Time or Something)
There is no reference to this except or when Sam tells Tamlyn that he has no control over when he will leap away.

“Oh Boy”
The catchphrase is heard in the usual places: when Sam arrives, and at the end when he leaps in to his next situation, as an apparent Old West gunfighter. But Sam also says it just before he tells Tamlyn that she is fated to be the strangler’s next victim.

Sam’s Complicated Love Life
Sam becomes intimately involved with Tamlyn Matsuda, who is fully aware of his real identity.

The Many Loves of Al Calavicci
There is nothing for Al here, other than him saying that if he were in Sam’s position with Tamlyn, maybe he would leave his host to wait forever in the waiting room too.

Other Observations
• Sam is a hilarious flop at this news reporting thing, as seen in an opening sequence which belies how serious the episode will become.

• There is a brutal enactment of the murder at the start, which is a bit reminiscent of the “true crime” programs of the day. It’s grimly enhanced by Tamlyn’s “narration”: “There’s a sound coming from the other room. I see a man enter. He’s on her. He’s hurting her. Why is he hurting her? To get rid of his rage. He’s screaming and clawing at her. He wants to maim and…rip her apart, to erase her from his mind. He wraps a cord around her throat. Tighter and tighter….” and so on.

• There’s some nice build up to Tamlyn’s eventual recognition of Sam with her knowing that he needs more tea.

• When Tamlyn calls Sam by his own name for the first time, Dean Stockwell’s shocked expression as Al is pretty funny.

• A contender for the worst dialogue in the story: “I remember reading somewhere that… that psychics…can foresee other people’s deaths, but not their own.” Extremely convenient contrivance there, I’d say.

• However, the scene where Sam tells Tamlyn the truth, over Al’s protests, is full of great writing and directing.

• Sam almost says what year he is from, but he gets cut off. It’s a bit strange since it was basically revealed in The Leap Back earlier this season.

• I wondered at first if Al was leading Sam on a wild goose chase when he had him running down the alley after Tony Beche (to get Sam away from Tamlyn) but that turned out to not be the case.

• Knowing full well that Tamlyn is fated to die in Chinatown, Sam argues himself out of taking her away from Chinatown, but rather going straight for the place where the tragedy is supposed to strike. This is a common time-travel storytelling trope. Characters are regularly going straight to the place where they know the bad thing is supposed to happen. But how could Tamlyn possibly die in Chinatown if she were to, say, leave the state? Oh well, the show avoids the question for the sake of cool drama.

Sam Leaps To
The Last Gunfighter

Favorite Dialogue
My favorite line is actually Ross’ cynical and twisted rationale for committing the murders:

Besides, we’re just givin’ the public what they want… sex and murder! Ratings, man! Ratings! If people are sick enough to watch it, hell, let’s give it to ’em.

A quick but pointed commentary about television violence, especially reality television.

Special thanks, by the way, to this site for the episode transcriptions.

The Best Moment
Easily it’s the reveal of Sam in the mirror with Tamlyn, which provides a great shock to the audience and the character alike thanks to same clever camerawork and blocking.

Previous Episode:  Running with HonorNext Episode:  The Last Gunfighter

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